What is the Concordia Galapagos Project (CGP)? CGP is a multifaceted project that involves many pieces that fit together in order to come up with a cohesive and well rounded end result. The project involves both a field and classroom component- both of which are equally important. The class component is where the theory and background is learned and the field component is what ties together the theoretical aspect of biology to the practical aspect. The yearly trip to the Galápagos Islands is part of a bigger vision that encompasses and brings together what is learned in the classroom and applies it to real life scenarios. Engaging in internship activities in the areas of ecology, evolution and conservation in the tropics will provide students with hands on experience in socioeconomics, biotic interactions, conservation and sustainable use biodiversity in tropical ecosystems.
Brief description of the classroom component: The tropical ecosystems, which harbor disproportionately high amount of biodiversity are highly threatened by anthropogenic activities leading to habitat loss and irreversible loss of biodiversity. This has become one of the major biological and environmental issues of our time. The goal of the classroom component is to reinforce what was studied and observed during the time away with the help of literature, peer reviewed articles as well as published reviews. Classes are primarily composed of open discussions, oral presentations as well as summaries and case studies.
Prerequisites: BIOL 225, BIOL226, and 3 credits from 300 level biology courses. Completion of 45 credits in the Biology Department (Biology, Cell and Molecular Biology or Ecology) specialization or honors programs and obtained a minimum GPA of 3.0 or permission of the instructor.
Course instructor: Dr. (Daya) S. Dayanandan, PhD
Although the classroom component (Biol498) is not mandatory, it is highly recommended as it is the only way that students will get credits (3) for their time abroad.
Brief description of the trip: The Concordia Galapagos Project (CGP) is a four week biology internship (research/volunteering) that takes place in the Galapagos Islands. It is right about 10 years ago that this initiative was taken by the very first edition of the Concordia Biology Student Association. The trip comprises three weeks of conservation work on two of the four inhabited islands as well as one week of ecotourism within the archipelago. A few days will also be spent in mainland Ecuador.
Work performed on the islands: The work to be executed on the trip is very diverse; ranging from sustainable farming and horticulture to the production of new wildlife inventory techniques. Recent collaboration with the Galapagos National Park has resulted in the involvement in beach clean ups and wildlife surveying in public areas. Despite the many duties that will be performed throughout the time away, much time is spent eradicating mora bushes, an invasive berry that was introduced by humans twenty years ago that is now competing and suppressing native flora.
Overall, the baggage of knowledge that students take away from the trip is truly exceptional! For some, it will be their first time away from home and for others the familiarity of being away from home will bring them home. This trip is guaranteed to open the eyes of students and give them an invaluable hands on experience amid a new culture and environment.
Profile of the travellers: the 10 to 16 students taking part of the trip come from various backgrounds, from first year students out of high school to graduating students in their second major, aspiring to start a new career in the Biology field. The Cell and Molecular Biology and Ecology branches of the program are often equally represented in the final travelling group, despite the ecologic nature of the trip.
Itinerary: students will begin the trip by flying from Montreal to Quito (the capital of Ecuador) and spending two days there (variable depending on the internal fights to the Galapagos Islands). The city of Quito is truly unique! Students will have the chance to immerse themselves into a new culture and environment. In the city, there are countless monuments and architectural sites to visit, namely the equator (Mitad del Mundo), the “most beautiful church in the Americas” (La Compania de Jesus), going up the second highest cable car in the world (Teleferico, 4,100m above sea level), horseback riding, shopping, volcano tours, and El Panecillo and the beautiful Virgen de Quito (a beautiful statue on the hill above the city, said to be its protector).
Next, the group will fly to the Galapagos Islands, either San Cristobal or Baltra (again, depending on flight availability). Volunteer work on the first reserve will begin. Late afternoons and weekends are free. Students can use this time to book day tours or to visit other parts of the island. Once the volunteer work/research is completed on one island, students will travel to the second island by boat. Work will resume on a new reserve. Again, late afternoons and weekends are free time that should be used to explore. Lastly, the final and most remote island, Isabela, will be toured exclusively. Activities in and around the islands consist of (but are not limited to) boat trips, snorkelling, scuba diving, hiking, visiting breeding centres and expeditions into volcanic craters.
More about the Galápagos: The Galapagos Archipelago is home to some of the most unusual, fascinating and unique species in the world. 95% of the native plant and animal species still exist on the islands, however human introduction of invasive species has greatly endangered this ecosystem. The problem of invasive species is a worldwide issue, second only to habitat destruction, as threat to biodiversity. As international trade and travel increase through globalization, the distinct ecosystems of the planet are being disrupted and degraded by the invasive species that we inadvertently carry with us in our luggage and through industry importation. Oceanic islands are especially vulnerable to these invasions as many rely heavily on various kinds of supplies from the main land. Hawaii, thought to have lost over 50% of its original biodiversity since the first arrival of humans 1,500 years ago, is a poignant example of this destruction. In the Galapagos Islands, extensive efforts have been made to prevent this from happening, but still 8% of land species are critically endangered. Furthermore, a projected 50% of vertebrate fauna and 24% of endemic flora are likely to go extinct if current and future conservation attempts are not successful.